back to article Your ex isn't the only one stalking your social media posts. The Feds are, too

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has used an AI-powered data-scanning tool called Giant Oak Search Technology (GOST) to scour social media looking for post containing "derogatory" comments about the nation. The GOST database ranks social media scores from one to 100, and is searchable by name, address, email …

  1. druck Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Some comentards better hope these forums aren't on the GOST's radar.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Yes, being generally sarcastic and a professional cynic, I'd never be allowed into the US.

      1. abend0c4

        There's always an upside.

      2. Clausewitz4.0 Bronze badge
        Black Helicopters

        I'd never be allowed into the US.

        Why would someone in their right mind, want to travel into USA, in the first place?

        Oh, Probably the free healthcare, low inflation, high wages, low crime index, almost zero public debt, free universities and affordable housing.

        1. b0llchit Silver badge

          FWIW, I stopped travelling to the US in 2001 after DHS/ICE/...[insert more TLAs here] made it very clear by their directed actions that you are not welcome in that country any more. Never had any regrets.

          1. blackcat Silver badge

            I have to say that they were a lot less pissy when I went to the US a couple of months back compared to previous trips in the 2010s. This last trip was also the first in a long time where my cases were not opened on on the way out of the US.

            1. stiine Silver badge

              That's because we think our luggage x-ray machines are better these days. In fact, DHS has a copy of any printed, or handwritten, documents that you passed through their scanner.

              1. blackcat Silver badge

                They did have the newer scanners for the carry on as I didn't have to pull out my baggie of liquids. However they did seem confused by the half eaten bag of sunchips in my carry on.

                I always got the feeling that the TSA enjoyed going through people's bags. What are they all going to do now?

        2. flayman Bronze badge

          "Why would someone in their right mind, want to travel into USA, in the first place?"

          I dunno, maybe for a wedding or a funeral? Like, I do have family there.

          1. Clausewitz4.0 Bronze badge
            Black Helicopters

            "Like, I do have family there."

            My condolences.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Oh, Probably the free healthcare, low inflation, high wages, low crime index, almost zero public debt, free universities and affordable housing."

          If you cross the border "informally", you can have all of that. If you take up residence, you get to pay for all of that.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        I'd never be allowed into the US

        I certainly wouldn't be. But that's because I didn't bother to renew my passport when it expired in 2005.. (t'missus doesn't like flying [1] so it seemed pointless to carry on having one when I wasn't travelling for work any more)

        [1] Only had two flights with her in 35 years of marriage - our flight to Jersey for our honeymoon and one flight to San Francisco (after the 49ers game that I wanted to see, we took a couple of days to drive up the coast road to Portland, Oregon where my brother lived then flew back Seattle --> Chicago --> London. Some of those back road town looked like they hadn't changed since 1950..)

    2. Steve Button Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      "ICE and Giant Oak did not respond to The Register's request for comment."

      Well, perhaps they did, but not how you think. Perhaps they are in these forums right now?

      Am I being paranoid? Almost certainly. Are the GOSTs in the forums with you right now? Can you see them?

      Is it feasible that GOST have the resources to write some scripts to downvote posts by people who say things that are "derogatory" towards the US government? Also very possible.

      Would they bother with a site as small as The Register? I really don't know. Gut feeling is no. What do people think? (only real people, no government employees allowed to reply)

      It's nice to see El Reg actually "biting the hand" for a change. Please keep digging. You could start by going through your web server logs and seeing if certain posts with certain opinions often come from certain IP addresses I guess.

      In the last couple of years I've genuinely questioned my sanity as so many people have told me to "trust the experts", "just do what the government says and don't question it" or "shut up and be quiet" or words to that effect on various forums (LinkedIN, NextDoor, etc.) that I've often wondered if they are useful idiots, or working for the government. Some of the replies I've got have often looked like they are written by an AI. Strangely this has not really happened in real life. People are generally reasonable, even if they don't always agree. I've also had several private messages from people who agreed with me, but would not dare to say it publicly (on LinkedIN, NextDoor and slack channels at work) or just didn't want to get into arguments. For example, stating that vaccine mandates were a terrible idea. Had a massive brouhaha about that one!

      1. tip pc Silver badge

        Next door is the most toxic social media I’ve ever encountered.

        These people are meant to be our neighbours yet they are fully abhorrent and full of venom and disgust.

        It’s not just my are but across where ever they serve. The Reddit sub for next door is an interesting chuckle but I rarely bother to look at next door anymore, when I do there are lots of people saying they are leaving and why., it’s often down to a few individuals who are often the local mods. The mods recruit other like minded sycophants and turn it into a sewer.

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Exactly! I had to leave NextDoor because a local mod would pile on whenever I posted anything which he mildly disagreed with. I deleted my account.

          My wife still has hers, but she says it's still full of complaints about noisy cars, dog shit and fireworks. Whenever you try to suggest making some local improvements (which she did) you just get piled on by a few "keyboard warriors" who are borderline abusive, or just plain rude. She had a sensible suggestion about making some improvements to a local road junction recently, and the local papers even picked it up. However a few angry people piled on saying "It's just bad drivers". I'm not sure how the bad drivers know to target this particular junction though. But you can't reason with these people.

          Some people just feel they need to fix all the wrong opinions on the internet.

        2. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

          NextDoor, failed on me and I never could sign in again - but I keep receiving emails about posts I have no intreest in - cannot even get NextDoor to accpt I do not want them.

    3. stiine Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Some of us bastards hope they fucking are.

  2. trindflo Bronze badge

    Let the derogatory comments begin

    In the hope that GOST or whatever they are calling it now reads this: ICE sucks donkey balls. Come waste your time sniffing my pants.

    I'm inclined to like the US.

    Agencies that abuse their powers in order to invade our privacy simply because they can make a case for doing it are evil.

    This isn't the first example of ICE doing things like this with disregard and impunity

  3. JessicaRabbit

    America wants its own social credit score system it seems.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      As an occasional visitor to the Greatest Nation on Earth I would like to commend the diligence of the majestic INS under the benevolent leadership of this, their greatest ever president, matched only by the previous one, and/or the next one (delete as appropriate)

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        As an occasional visitor to the Greatest Nation on Earth

        And I'm sure Iceland is happy to host you :-)

        (No, I'm not Icelandic. But there's a fair wedge of Viking DNA in my family tree..)

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Are you suggeting US presidents should be deleted?

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      I’m sure the UK MI5/MI6/GCHQ are up to their shanks in this… and probably the whole 5 Eyes crowd.

      Spectre will be overjoyed.

      1. blackcat Silver badge

        Didn't UK gov admit to closely monitoring social media during the pandemic? Certainly the Aussie police were doing that as they kept showing up at people's houses.

        And there was the case of a girl posting rap lyrics online and getting a visit from the po-po as they deemed her post harmful.

        This doesn't surprise me one bit about the US as when you apply for an ESTA you have to give all your social media accounts.

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Does THIS count as social media?

          1. tip pc Silver badge
          2. blackcat Silver badge

            No, if we were social we would not be working in IT/Engineering :)

            1. 6th

              Hey! I resentfully confirm that.

          3. Tron Silver badge

            El Reg comments are web 2.0...

            ... so I'm sure Glorious Leaders of United Kingdom have implemented a world-beating version of their own to scan it.

            Hopefully the UK version was outsourced to the usual suspects and nobody has noticed that it doesn't actually work.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: El Reg comments are web 2.0...

              Maybe implemented by Infosys's youth employees working 70 hour weeks.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          There were also a bunch of crooks organizing illegal raves during lockdown who got caught by their private messages

      2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        All puppeteered from Davos.

        1. Huw L-D

          by Davros, surely?

    3. mpi Silver badge

      Why would they need one, if they already have credit reports?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Social media?

    I’ve heard of it.

    Apparently some people even use their own names and PI on the Internet too.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Social media?

      I'm Anonymous Coward

      And so's my wife

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Social media?

        No, I'm Anonymous Coward!

        1. b0llchit Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Social media?

          We have a family! Thanks, now we can target you lot in one go.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Social media?

      apart from a few lunatics or non-operational figurehead leaders most Terrorists worth their salt will probably not have been saying Trump/ you ess aaa are infidels on X.

  5. Splod

    It's the users

    If I thought for one moment this would be used reasonably it would be fine, but you know it won't.

    So, legal visitors get tracked and the million or so that were helped to enter illegally are ok? Will I now be unable to visit the US for this criticism?

    Things are getting crazy. IT is putting too much power in the hands of the state.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It's the users

      It has allowed TPTB to get rid of that irksome presumption of innocence.

  6. Ol'Peculier

    Isn't this just the latest version of ECHELON?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The first time I heard about ECHELON was playing Deus Ex. I was quite shocked to discover it was a real thing!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Giant Oak

    ...are not just the people behind the data, but also the data behind the people?

  8. tip pc Silver badge

    Turning everyone into a criminal

    All this is doing is assuming guilt before innocence and then when they have quotas to fill they can adjust adjust the config to ensnare more suspects.

    They don’t see people as people just part of a number on a report.

    AI is a scary dangerous thing, like anything nefarious it’ll do as you train it likely with unexpected unknown consequences.

    Just like the premise of terminator were the ai in control of the nukes decides the way to win the war is to start it first.

    Train ai to find terrorists on social media and it will, once the number on social media dwindle it’ll find others who could potentially maybe future terrorists based on sudo patterns the ai or its programmers think are likely markers.

    The big problem is we are being judged without our knowledge or comprehending of what we are consenting to.

    1. Erix

      Re: Turning everyone into a criminal

      finding terrorists based on sudo patterns is easy:

      sudo find / -iname 'terrorist'

  9. Tubz Silver badge
    Big Brother

    I thought this was another China story and realised it was the US Of A$$ and then thought, frack it, no real difference between the two.

  10. Displacement Activity


    Back in 2006 I flew from NZ to the UK, eastwards, with one stop in LA. They got us all off the plane, lined us up, fingerprinted and retina-scanned us (Ok, it was a long time ago, it might just have been one of the two), and then let us back on. WTF? Not even the Chinese did that. That's what you'd expect in Belarus, not the US. Land Of The Free, my arse.

    Ok, if you're flying right now, it's a toss-up between a Russian missile and a Yankee anal probe. Difficult.

    1. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: Yawn...

      "Not even the Chinese did that."

      Yes they do, if your flight has a stopover in China they take all your biometric details.

      1. very angry man

        Re: Yawn...


        I travel through China often

        1. Spazturtle Silver badge

          Re: Yawn...

          Then they must already have your fingerprints or you are old, fingerprint collection for people aged 14 - 70 has been mandatory for years. You can simple look on their website to confirm this for yourself.

    2. Barrie Shepherd

      Re: Yawn...

      Pretty sure they still do that. It's a US requirement to enter the US - they have no concept of airport transit - you have to be processed at the first port you land in irrespective of whether you are staying in the US or not.

  11. BigKev

    Here's some stories about how that stuff is being used already in the UK to bar people with unfavourable views on government policies :(

    1. flayman Bronze badge

      That's not good, but I don't see how it's barring people. If you are working in UK education then you have a right to enter and remain. A sovereign nation has the absolute authority to deny entry to anyone who does not have the right to enter, but we should not be happy about the government of a supposedly liberal democracy monitoring speech like this.

      On your UK stories, we still have the Data Protection Act in force here. Even though communications are made in public, storing and processing these communications to draw unfavourable conclusions about people is a data controller and data processor activity. This makes it subject to the DPA. The Information Commissioner's Office should be all over this.

      1. Barrie Shepherd

        I won't be holding my breath!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Garbage in, Garbage out... folks say in the ML space.

    So what output can we expect if we feed "social" media information into intelligence gathering systems?

    1. Clausewitz4.0 Bronze badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Garbage in, Garbage out...

      So what output can we expect if we feed "social" media information into intelligence gathering systems?

      If it is real intelligence, better decisions from the leaders receiving the advice.

      If it is a counter-intelligence operation, a change in the government, usually in favor of the target(s).

    2. stiine Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Garbage in, Garbage out...

      Because they also have netflow data from every ISP. That's why.

  13. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    Does anyone hear me?

    America is the greatest nation on Earth and in the Universe!

    1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

      Re: Hello?

      We do, sadly Hear You.

  14. tip pc Silver badge

    PM vows to get AI under control

    Good to see government acknowledging the dangers.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Labor shortage

    Really, it must be hard to find authoritarian thugs these days, with agencies like ICE and CBP snapping them all up.

    ([Notionally] anonymous because these agencies are customers of my employer and blah blah blah. I dare say if anyone there cares about me they already know my opinion of them.)

  16. Omnipresent Bronze badge

    Of course they are

    The "influencers" are criminals.

    It's either:

    foreign national influencers.

    Truther influencers (same thing).

    millennial criminals.

    Or AI influencers (same thing).

    Why wouldn't they?

  17. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    How do they know ...

    ... which pseudonym is me? This is one of the few boards I frequent where I use my own name. And if they are going after immigrants, visitors applying for visas, etc., it's going to be a tougher nut to crack than tracing in-country IP addresses and logons. Particularly if the subjects are highly motivated to appear as though they are benign, pro USA types with 'clean' social media records. I have multiple IDs on several boards. And at times, I even have some fun getting in arguments with myself.

    I hope GOST has a better track record than some of the other contractors they've used for doing stuff like background checks. The ones that can't even get information right when it's in my best interest to be honest and accurate on an application. (That's "Montreal", not "Montgomery, Alabama". Quit hitting the Enter key on the first item in a pull-down menu.)

  18. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    It's probably not a good thing that I have Green Day's American .... Person in my Spotify playlist. Now the only place I'll be visiting State Side is Guantanamo Bay it seems.

  19. Bitsminer Silver badge

    insidious russkies

    From Google:

    The word GOST (Russian: ГОСТ) is an acronym for gosudarstvennyy standart (Russian: государственный стандарт), which means state standard or governmental standard.

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